Even with the rise of cocktail bars in Kuala Lumpur, newcomer Bar Shake manages to carve a successful spot for themselves thanks to their Japanese heritage that's worn proudly on their sleeves. Attached to sister outlet Sushi Ryu, this new watering hole is helmed by veteran bartender Osamu Kinugawa, a respected bartender from Tokyo.

If we instantly transported you to Bar Shake to enjoy one of their well crafted drinks without telling you where you were, you would probably assume that you were at one of Shinjuku's famous drinking spots. We wouldn't blame you, as it has all the telltale signs of a quality Japanese bar: an intimate ambiance replete with plush furnishings, a mix of Japanese spirits and other well known bottles adorned behind the bar, and a solemn Japanese bartender manning the establishment.

Osamu Kinugawa is that solemn bartender, the man behind the praised but now defunct Bar Kinugawa, making a comeback to the cocktail scene like a phoenix from the ashes to continue whipping up exciting alcoholic creations with precision that the Japanese are so well known for. Armed with a collection of exotic Japanese spirits, at least to most Malaysians, that when used in combination with housemade ingredients, results in good old fashioned classic cocktails reimagined using Japanese and local touches.

Seasonal Fruit Sake Cocktail – Longan

A sake cocktail makes for a light and easy way to break in your inaugural visit to Bar Shake, with Kinugawa's twist highlighting local fruits, making for a fascinating play of Japanese-Malaysian flavours in a glass. Our longan sake cocktail had a very pleasant fruity entry on the palate, followed by a slightly umami taste from the sake that hits shortly after at the back of the palate. On the nose, the sweetness of the longan's aroma is dominant, revealing an easy-to-like cocktail that will appeal to women and those looking for a light entry with a fruity finish.

Gin & Tonic

Classic cocktails are something Bar Shake has nailed down to a T. Kinugawa injects a slice of Japan into his gin and tonic with the use of Tumugi's Wapirits Koji shochu as a substitute for gin. The aromatic and complex shochu is more than a suitable substitute for gin, that when mixed with housemade tonic water and a spritz of orange peel, completes the cocktail.

The drink has a light and slightly carbonated body, a taste that seems like a mixture of rice and wheat (no doubt thanks to the use of koji), and a wonderful citrusy aromatic hint that hits the nose with each sip. With a flavour profile that's incredibly unique, those looking for something to switch up the old gin and tonic formula will find this a fascinating drink.

Aged Old Fashioned

Another example of classic cocktails done right, the bar's aged old fashioned has an elegant whisky dominant taste at the forefront with the desirable warmth and complexities of an aged spirit lingering at the background. Definitely a sipping cocktail, the drink has desirable citrus hints on the nose to balance its whisky forward profile.

Smoked Negroni

A smoky take on a timeless drink, this cocktail's fragrant woody aroma and taste will hit you upon that first sip, while the bold lull of the gin, vermouth and campari combination that soon follows after does a successful job at giving your palate plenty to work with flavour-wise. It's a welcoming break from the usual negroni, which is also available upon request and is one of my favourite's from Kinugawa's arsenal of choice cocktails.

The "Shake-makase" Experience

While the bar has a tight knit menu, Kinugawa is more than happy to create custom cocktails based on your favourite base spirits and preferred mixers for an omakase experience. Bar Shake also offers spirits by the glass or bottle, if that catches your fancy.

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